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Pillsbury hosted a panel event for 100 Women in Hedge Funds on July 28 discussing conflicts of interests hedge fund managers face in managing multiple account types, such as funds, institutional separate accounts and sub-advised mutual funds.  Kristin Snyder, Associate Regional Director for Examinations, San Francisco Regional Office of the Securities and Exchange Commission, emphasized that while the SEC does not expect advisers to have conflict-free business models, clear disclosure and effective mitigation of material conflicts are essential fiduciary duties of an adviser.  Other panelists and representatives of hedge fund managers (Frank Martin, President, Standard Pacific Capital, LLC) and institutional investors (Michelle Young, Managing Director, Ohana Advisors), provided insights into identifying, assessing, mitigating, and managing those conflicts. Ildiko Duckor, Partner and co-head of Pillsbury’s Investment Funds and Investment Management group, moderated the panel and offered tips and comments on practical solutions to account conflicts.

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On July 15, 2015, the Wage and Hour Division of the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) issued Administrator’s Interpretation No. 2015-1, adopting a very expansive interpretation of the definition of employees under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) under which many workers currently treated as independent contractors will need to be reclassified as employees. The Administrator’s Interpretation identifies the issue of a worker’s economic dependence as the most important factor in distinguishing between independent contractors and employees. The Administrator’s Interpretation puts employers on notice that “the FLSA covers workers of an employer even if the employer does not exercise the requisite control over the workers, assuming the workers are economically dependent on the employer.”

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Read this article and additional publications at pillsburylaw.com/publications-and-presentations.

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In a letter to SEC Chair Mary Jo White, the Treasurers and Comptrollers of 13 states have urged the SEC to crack down on private equity funds and require better disclosure of expenses to limited partners.

Fees and expenses in the private equity space have in general been a recent focus of the SEC.  In a high-profile case this spring, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. (KKR) was fined nearly $30 million for misallocating so-called “broken deal” expenses to its flagship private equity funds and none to co-investors.   KKR, however, failed to adopt policies and procedures governing broken deal expense allocations during the period in question, which contributed to a finding of breach of fiduciary duty.  KKR also did not expressly disclose in its funds’ limited partnership agreements and related offering materials that it did not allocate any of the broken deal expenses to co-investors.

The issue that the state Treasurers brought up in their letter to the SEC may be differently motivated. The main complaints of the letter, inadequate expense reporting and opaque calculations of management fee offsets, surfaced shortly after some large state pension funds came under fire for failing to track and providing incorrect reporting of the amount of fees and carried interest paid to the private equity managers they invested with over the course of many years. One of the Treasurers noted that the letter was independently generated following discussions of transparency issues among the Treasurers for more than a year, and not as a result of those criticisms.

The full Treasurers and Comptrollers’ letter to the SEC is available HERE.

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It has been a common practice of private equity firms to convert their right to receive management fees from the funds they manage into the right to receive profits and distributions from the funds through management fee waiver arrangements.  As a result of these arrangements, the firms achieve a lower tax rate because the profits and distributions they receive in place of the fees usually receive capital gains treatment while the fees would otherwise have generated ordinary income, subject to higher tax rates.  In the proposed regulations, the IRS suggests that these arrangements may be disguised payments for services and result in ordinary income anyways.

While the proposed regulations would be effective when final regulations are published, the IRS has indicated that it believes the principles reflected in the proposed regulations generally reflect Congressional intent—signaling that it may apply these principles to existing arrangements even prior to the adoption of final regulations.

Read the proposed rule in the Federal Register HERE.

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Chair Mary Jo White’s opening remarks on July 15 kicking off the annual broker-dealer compliance outreach program drew a parallel between the goals and work of the SEC and those of compliance professionals. Ms. White acknowledged the challenges and hardship that compliance professionals face, the critical importance of their role to investors and the integrity of the markets. Her acknowledgment comes after the upset that compliance professionals experienced when BlackRock’s CCO was found personally liable and slapped with a civil penalty. (See our previous post regarding BlackRock’s censure and its compliance officer’s personal liability.) Ms. White’s assurance that “it is not our intention to use our enforcement program to target compliance professionals” was hedged by her statement that “we must, of course, take enforcement action against compliance professionals if we see significant misconduct or failures by them.”

Ms. White named the following examination priorities: fee structures; suitability; order routing conflicts; recidivist representatives; microcap activity; excessive trading; transfer agent activity; and issues of importance to retail investors and investors saving for retirement.

Read more of Chair Mary Jo White’s opening remarks at the Compliance Outreach Program for Broker-Dealers HERE.

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Pillsbury partner Ildiko Duckor will participate in the 100 Women in Hedge Funds sponsored event titled “HOT topics in Compliance: Conflicts of Interests in Account Management and more” on July 28, 2015.

In quest for assets and investors, hedge fund managers continue to diversify their client base. When they are successful, they may end up with a broad spectrum of accounts: managed accounts, 40 Act registered funds and proprietary accounts in addition to hedge funds. With variety comes complication – from a compliance perspective.

Are your side-by-side account management procedures up to par?

Join us in a panel discussion with experts from the SEC, Legal/Compliance, and Managers/Investors highlighting just what you need to know about the following compliance hot button topics:

  • Conflicts of interests in the center of the SEC’s focus – arising from trade allocations, expense allocations, related party transactions, side letters and proprietary account biases
  • Best practices you should have in place now
  • Investors’ main concerns during negotiations with the managers and what you need to know about their due diligence expectations

For more information, visit 100 Women in Hedge Funds.

Date & Time
7/28/2015
6:00 pm PT

Location
Pillsbury’s San Francisco office
Four Embarcadero Center
22nd Floor
San Francisco, CA 94111

Event Contact
Jessica Slater

Speakers

Ildiko Duckor
Kristin Synder, Securities and Exchange Commission
Frank Martin, Standard Pacific Capital, LLC
Michelle Young, Ohana Advisors

Sponsors
Pillsbury
100 Women in Hedge Funds